Listen to players on the U.S. women's soccer team talk, and it's clear how much winning the Women's World Cup will mean to them. Forward Abby Wambach is different. With her, you can see how much she wants it.
The emotions of Wambach have been evident throughout the tournament, which ends today when the United States faces Japan in the championship game in Frankfurt, Germany.
Whether it was her struggles to score goals early in the tournament or her game-changing goals in the two elimination games, salvaging a last-second tie with Brazil and keying a victory over France in the semifinals, the look on her face has highlighted the intensity of the games and the passion of the American team as it has fought its way to their first Cup final in 12 years. She has left it all out for everyone to see.
"She's always been a player that just wears everything externally," said Julie Foudy, the 1999 World Cup veteran whose final four years of her career overlapped with Wambach's first four. "She's so vocal and fired up and passionate. I've always loved that about her. ... When Brazil scored that second goal, it was her veins popping out of her neck telling her team, 'We're fine, let's go, we're going to rally this group.' She has really willed this team along."
Wambach always has been passionate, but, if it's possible, those passions seem to be set even higher than normal in Germany.
It could be that she knows time is running out for her - she turned 31 on June 2 - and she might not get another chance at a Women's World Cup.
It could be the desire to do what her heroes on the 1999 team did and for this generation of players to carve out an identity of their own.
The United States hasn't won a Women's World Cup since 1999; Wambach made her debut with the team in 2001, so she's very aware of that. Only one player on the U.S. team, defender Christie Rampone, was on the '99 squad.
This is Wambach's fourth major international competition, and she has won one title, the Olympic gold in 2004. The seven years and three tournaments since have ended in heartbreak. The United States finished third in World Cups in 2003 and 2007, and she missed the 2008 Olympics after she suffered a broken leg in the team's final match before leaving for China.
She has had individual success in the World Cup, winning the Silver Boot as the second-leading scorer (with six) in 2007, but she wants the title.
What it all might come down to is her competitiveness, her inner drive to compete and win.
How much that means to her was evident in the semifinal with France. When heading in the goal that put the U.S. up 2-1, she nearly slammed her head into an unforgiving upright. But with Wambach, there's never a hesitation. Slam your head into a heavy pipe to get a goal? Is there any option?
"As the youngest of seven children, I was put in a position where my competitiveness was taught to me at a young age," she said Thursday. "I've had a lot of downs too, losses in world championships in the past, my leg break in 2008. That all fueled a fire within me. This tournament, you've seen a little of that fire coming out in my passion and my play. Obviously, this team has shown many of those same attitudes."
There are testimonials:
"I see Michelle Akers when I see her play," said Foudy, comparing Wambach with one of the greats of women's soccer. "Michelle would leave bone chunks out on the field, teeth on the field. There was nothing Michelle carried off the field. She just left everything. It was beautiful to watch and play alongside. And Abby is the exact same."
"Abby motivates me every day," forward Alex Morgan said. "She's an amazing person, and it's an honor to play and learn with her."
Wambach, a native of Rochester, N.Y., who attended Florida, is known for her power rather than her finesse. Her three goals in the Women's World Cup have all been scored with her head - well, the one against Sweden was more off her shoulder - and 50 of her 121 career goals have been on headers.
"What makes me capable of doing that under certain circumstances, I have no idea," she said, though she has acknowledged an ability to gauge the flight of a ball and time her jumps accordingly.
"The goal against Brazil, when you watch the replay," said Brandi Chastain, who became the face of the 1999 win after her decisive penalty kick, "her eyes never left the ball. She was never consumed or overwhelmed by the pressure of the other team. Her vision and her purpose was strictly on that ball."
That focus kept the U.S. women alive against Brazil, got them a victory over France and now leaves them on the brink of the grail that Wambach has chased since starting with the national team in 2001.
What the team has done so far has been amazing, but it hasn't gotten to where it wants to be.
"Getting to the final is one thing," Wambach said. "Winning is another. This isn't good enough for me. Getting to the final is only halfway part of the dream coming true. ... This is a pinnacle, a dream, a goal we've all set, collectively speaking. We have unfinished business. We want to have a storybook ending to an amazing journey. The road we've taken may not be the one many thought we would take, but we have a very good chance of being world champs."